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Washington Insight

September 09, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

HARD SELL: In a city increasingly preoccupied with the fate of President Clinton, Jeanne Lopatto had one of Capitol Hill's most difficult jobs on Tuesday. As press secretary to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), she was in charge of drumming up media attendance for Hatch's morning press conference today about an upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration. Her problem? Most reporters will be preoccupied with not one but two competing events: an 8:30 a.m. meeting of Democratic House leaders with the president at the White House and, an hour later, a meeting between House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) on procedures for impeachment, if things come to that. Attendance at the flag event is unlikely to be overwhelming--even with a promised appearance by entertainer Pat Boone.

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LIKE CATS AND DOGS: A fourth-grader at John Eaton Elementary School in Washington was preparing for a visit Tuesday by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The question he had in mind for the first lady, as relayed by his father, went to the heart of the Monica S. Lewinsky matter: "Are you still mad at your husband?" He was persuaded to alter the wording, if not the sublimated message: "Are Socks and Buddy getting along any better?" As it turns out, however, she took no questions--"much to the relief of a number of assembled parents who couldn't restrain their kids from asking the obvious," said one kid's dad.

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THEY DO: One way or another, even social events in Washington often end up tied to a political issue. The Labor Day weekend nuptials of Helena Ekeus and Gustavo Rodolfo Zlauvinen were no exception. The issue was Iraq. The groom is on the United Nations team now into its seventh year of trying to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime--a process that was supposed to take only a few weeks. The bride's father, Rolf Ekeus, was chief U.N. weapons inspector for six years until 1997, when he was appointed Sweden's ambassador to the United States. In a wedding crowd sprinkled with U.N. personnel, including new chief inspector Richard Butler, a high point of the ceremony was a prayer to end the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction--to which more than one person was heard to say, loudly, "Amen."

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POST THIS: The U.S. Postal Service's board of governors posted the agenda for its meeting last week: the budget of the postal rate commission, the agency's financial plan and its preliminary appropriation request for 2000. Amid all those number-crunching topics, there was one more item: The agenda for the October meeting. It will be held in Honolulu.

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BEGS THE QUESTION: At a formal Kremlin dinner last week, Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers encountered Mrs. Clinton, who was dressed in a two-piece tiered black chiffon dress. Summers said something, inaudible to those nearby, to the first lady. Her reply, which was overheard: "Boys just want to have fun."

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